March 6, 2021

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Exploring the Tompkins Preserve | Hiking News

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A wonderful phenomenon in today’s growing world is the preservation of small properties by land trusts. There are many such organizations in New Hampshire, guaranteeing places to get out in nature outside protected federal land like the White Mountain National Forest.

I intend to write more about them as potential places to hike, and a good place to start is a wonderful walk I took last week in a new preserve in Sandwich — the Dot Banks Nature Trail in the Tompkins Preserve.

Since 1960, the Squam Lake Conservation Society has preserved 9,200 acres in the Squam Lake watershed, from shorelines to mountains. Their Upper Asquam Preserve is one of the largest preserves in the Squam Lake watershed. The area has four ponds, extensive wetlands, including a rare old growth black gum swamp and uninterrupted land for wildlife.

This June, the 82-acre Tompkins Preserve was added to the Upper Asquam Preserve. The Squam Lake Conservation Society, in partnership with the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, acquired the preserve with the help of donors. The conservation easement will be held by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

Dot Banks had an exceptional affinity for the natural world. She worked at a raptor rehab center, presented live owl programs, and could imitate the calls of wild turkeys, chickadees, and chipmunks to call them in to be fed by hand.

Her family were one of the donors for the Tompkins Preserve, and the 1.2 mile Dot Banks Nature Trail was a fitting memorial for her. The trail was built by AmeriCorps volunteers and land trust staff.

My first awareness of the new trail was when a Sandwich resident expressed excitement about it online and showed pictures of it. One morning, I asked Tamworth friend if she wanted to go walk it.

Heading west on Route 25, we bore right on Little Pond Road, took a right into Center Sandwich and continued on Route 113 towards Holderness for 1.8 miles to Chick’s Corner. There, we bore left on Millbridge Road and shortly after the first house on the right, pulled into the new parking lot for the Dot Banks Nature Trail.

There is a kiosk with comprehensive info. It is emphasized that there are no dogs allowed on the preserve. This is to protect the ample wildlife there. A person may not see the wildlife, but a dog would certainly smell it out. There is even a friendly sign a short way in on the trail that says: “Dogs, we love you but please turn back.”

Also, it was emphasized to me by Roger Larochelle, director of the Squam Lake Conservation Society that the preserve and nature trail is for small quiet groups. It is not the type of place to be inundated by rowdy groups or individuals. Nature and its inhabitants are what is there, and people will most appreciate it as quiet visitors.

We headed into the woods on the new trail, which had a groomed look. If you are looking for an entirely flat trail, this is not it, as it gently rose up and down through the woods. I commented on the profusion of ferns.

Near, the Thompkins Brook crossing is the tallest black ash tree in the state. There is an interpretive sign about it on the trail, making it unnecessary to walk in the muddy area out to it. We crossed over a flat bridge there.

Soon, we reached an interesting scene with a nearby tall ledge rising above Burrow Brook, and a new Leopold bench by the trail to sit on and enjoy the scene of stone, water and woods.

The simple Leopold bench was designed by the conservation great Aldo Leopold back in the 1930s and used for sitting and observing nature, kind of a revolutionary act in his day.

Next, on the trail is a unique bridge over Burrow Brook built by AmeriCorps and staff. It is supported by hemlock logs taken nearby. A sign says next to the bridge says “Please, one person at a time. Thank you.”

The trail rose and leveled out, reaching an old woods road before coming to an opening on the shore of Lost Lake. A moderately sized pond, it was covered with lily pads. The Squam Range rose in the distance.

The trail makes you want to come back in different seasons: in foliage; in spring when the natural world is waking up and the pond would be free of lily pads; in the winter, when it would just be good to be there. It is on my agenda for this winter.

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